February 20, 2012
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The above headline is the title of a recently published consultation document in which the DfT puts forward its proposals to impose new charges on all heavy goods vehicles in excess of 12 tonnes GVW. It is a key part of the government’s commitment to take steps to level the playing field between UK and non-UK hauliers and is therefore welcome.
The charges will be graduated according to the existing bands for Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) purposes, ranging from £85 to a vehicle in band A to £1,000 for vehicles in band G (these are typically 2+3, maximum weight artics). The rate for a 3+3, six-axle artic will be £640.
Most importantly, the consultation document spells out the government’s commitment to ensure that any HGV user charge imposes no additional cost overall for the greatest possible number of UK road transport operators. In doing so, they have to work within the legal framework imposed by European Union (EU) rules. The proposal suggests that in introducing the new charges for all trucks over 12 tonnes GVW, the current rates of VED for UK trucks will be reduced to at, or just above, the minimum levels dictated by the EU. By linking the new charge to the existing system of VED, it will minimise the administrative burden on UK operators by allowing the application and payment processes for both to be aligned.
The RHA has been concerned for some years about the impact of foreign trucks on the UK haulage industry, has repeatedly drawn government attention to the volume of foreign trucks on our roads, and has drawn both public and political attention to the fact they contribute little or nothing to the cost of providing and maintaining our road network. This unfairness has continued for far too long and the proposed new charging regime is a welcome first step. But it is no more than a first step which will impose some charges of non-UK trucks and will therefore add to the costs of our foreign competitors, while not adversely affecting our members.
In considering this proposal, we are mindful of the EU’s Transport White Paper: Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system which proposes wide-ranging changes which could result in compatible road charging systems, harmonised EU rules and a restructuring of fuel taxes, as well as seeking the abolition of all restrictions on cabotage and improvements to the core network of principal routes across Europe. Such moves are controversial to say the least, but they are the way the European Commission is thinking.
Needless to say, the RHA is monitoring progress on these proposals very carefully and will be seeking government support if we see measures being brought forward that will disadvantage our members.